Friday, April 2, 2010

Artist Talk with Wayne Thiebaud at San Jose Museum of Art

San Jose Museum of Art Program

Bob and I spent a delightful time attending the Wayne Thiebaud interview by the museum director last night. Chairs were set up in one of the two galleries featuring his work. Most of the pieces are from the family private collection and a San Francisco gallery owned by his son. I couldn't resist sketching Wayne. If you are not familiar with his work, Google his name and select images. He has done series of people, baked goods, San Francisco with unique perspectives, delta farmland scenes, and lately beach scenes. His art is very personal and unique, done from memory and sketches back in his studio. He began illustrating for Disney at 16, served in WWII, used the GI bill to attend 1 year at San Jose State and received his undergraduate and graduate degrees at University of California at Davis. He then taught art for many years at Davis and became well-known among his contemporaries. He is a personal friend of many, including Wolf Kahn and Richard Diebenkorn. He is in his 90th year and his love for his wife who was in the audience is so very special. His wife stated that he paints every day.

What a lovely man he is; not at all full of himself and with the same self-criticisms and doubts that all artists have. Everything that Wayne said resonated with the various discussions on Kathy Cartwright's blog in which she explores many aspects of art. She often summarizes books about creating art and stimulates discussions. She really makes us artists think.

I scribbled a few notes and a sketch on the program and will share a bit of what he said.
  • Making art is magical. Each piece of art is a little world in itself.
  • Making art is an unnatural act; it's not natural to make space on a flat surface. The artist has to make the thing make sense -- a most difficult thing to do.
  • Making art is similar to staging a theater production. The objects are characters in dramatic incidents. The artist brings together by memory the elements to make an individual drama.
  • An artist has to be willing to fail. Wayne says that's his rationalization for all the failed pieces he's painted. He stated that he fails most of the time.
  • Museums are wonderful places to learn about art. He had to learn to like Matisse and now Matisse is one of his favorite painters.
  • He doesn't believe we have a "self." We are made up of all the people who have contact with and all the experiences we have. One of the quarrels he has with modern art is the emphasis on self.
  • Everything we paint has components of what was. We critique by measuring ourselves against tradition.
  • Work like hell, push yourself, and make lots of mistakes. That's how you become a better artist.
  • He characterized Duchamp as a coward for retreating to cubism.
  • Most of his series develop over a period of 10 to 12 years. Wayne is not sure he should be showing the beach scenes that he's done over the past 5 or 6 years because he hasn't completed the series.
  • On the other hand, he said show your work and the sooner the better. You develop critical evaluation. He told of showing his first work that he felt was really good. When he went to see the show and compared his work to other work, he was so ashamed he wanted to pull it off the wall. He says it helped him critically evaluate his work.
There was a question and answer period that also elicited some interesting information. Someone asked what his advice to emerging artists would be. He said the joy of painting has to be enough. You can paint anything you want in any style as long as its good. He feels so very fortunate to have been a teacher and a painter who painted anything he wanted to paint.

Now, something interesting for my friend, Pam. Check out her wonderful blog devoted to her PAMO cartoons. Thiebaud really wanted to be a cartoonist and he stilll draws cartoons about every other day. He states he is not very good at it. He also collects cartoons. In the book, Wolf Kahn's America, the artist speaks of his friendship with Thiebaud. He visited his home and Wayne has a wonderful collection of art. "On one wall something struck me as odd: two fine Cezanne watercolors flanked an original strip of Krazy Kat comics....Wayne on his development: 'Krazy Kat was my inspration as a kid, Cezanne does the same for me as an adult.'" This really sums up what Thiebaud said, but these are my words, we create art through our personal filter.


Gary Keimig said...

Sounds like a great guy and well worth your time by going.

Anonymous said...

Mary- Thank you so much for taking notes and providing us with such wonderful insight into this remarkable artist! And when I got to the end and saw your nod to me- I was greatly pleased and humbled that you would include the part about cartoons. Thank you!!! You continue to inspire me as a person and an artist. What a great blog community we have!

Mary Paquet said...

Gary, I am in awe of the work this man has produced.

Pam, I immediately thought of you when Thiebaud mentioned his love of comics and how he draws cartoons about every other day. Wouldn't we both like to see some of them. You are among the greats!

hwfarber said...

Great notes, Mary--Bullet No. 6 is especially interesting.

Kathy said...

Wow, what a great summary! Thanks so much, Mary. I could feast on this post for weeks. Thiebaud made great remarks. Lucky you !! Wish I could have been there, too.

Janice said...

Mary just reading this post inspired me to keep painting my little ACEOs, making up my short poems and writing a few of my thoughts and memories on my blog. As I said I Googled Wayne Thiebaud and I enjoyed his artwork very much. Thank you so much for sharing this artist with us and your own terrific paintings :)

janice said...

Mary-thanks so much for the summary and your obsrvations. I feelas thoughI was there!

Megha Chhatbar said...

Hey Thank you so much for taking notes and sharing them with us! Blogging is the place where you can virtually transfer knowledge! :)

AutumnLeaves said...

He sounds quite eclectic in what attracts his eye as a painter. I think I am similar, not landing on any particular genre (i.e., landscapes, portraits, stilllifes, cartoons, etc.). It sounds as though he hangs art eclectically as well. Me too. I like what I like what I like (and a good sampling is what you see on my blog as the artists I follow). Great blog post, Mary!!

r garriott said...

Isn't Mr. Thiebaud the coolest??? I've Always considered him an inspiration, and was lucky enough to see his retrospective (and video) when it passed through Loveland, CO lat summer. But to hear him speak! Oh, my envy is turning me shades of chartreuse to viridian! Thanks for sharing.

Celeste Bergin said...

Thanks for the great report.
During a visit to a residence in Santa Cruz I saw a Thiebaud book on the coffee table...we began paging through it and literally talked about Thiebaud's work for hours! We were so captivated by the images that we forgot our dinner reservation. He is the most interesting artist in America. A National treasure.

Peggy Stermer-Cox said...

Hi Mary, I'm so thrilled to learn that Wayne Thiebaud is a Krazy Kat fan too! My mother gave me her Krazy Kat book and I love the surreal drawings and interesting humor. I think Tom Otterness liked Krazy too.

Wonderful posting and thank you so much for sharing the interview!